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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cars, Cowboys, and Subliminal Messaging

Everyone in America has at least heard about this commercial:

In a narrative that recalls the feel of President Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" campaign ad, Clint Eastwood lends his gravelly voice to a pro-Detroit, pro-business, and pro-America message.

After this commercial aired, it was clear that the message people got was somewhat different. Because Chrysler (and indeed, the entire city of Detroit) was set to collapse under its own weight prior to the Obama Administration funded auto-bailouts, some saw this particular commercial as a nod to the President that said, "See, the bailouts helped. Detroit is recovering. The Obama Presidency is working for America."
Karl Rove was one of those who held this opinion, saying, "The leadership of the auto companies feel they need to do something to repay their political patronage. It is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising."

Fuel was added to the fire when it was discovered that members of the team that produced the ad had donated time and artwork to the 2008 Obama Campaign

In an effort to deflect criticisms, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne insisted in an interview that the ad was not intended to have any political content. Of course, he then went on to clarify that "I can't stop anybody from associating themselves with a message but it was not intended to be any type of political overture on our part."

Whether or not a subliminal pro-Obama message was intended by the producers or by Chrysler, it certainly was not intended by Clint Eastwood. Donating the money he earned for the spot to charity, Eastwood made the following statement: "I am certainly not politically affiliated with Mr Obama. It was meant to be a message about job growth and the spirit of America."

Indeed, Eastwood supported John McCain in his campaign against Obama in 2008, and has been a longtime libertarian/Republican voter. He has also been quite vocal in his criticism of the auto-bailouts. 
"I’m a big hawk on cutting the deficit. I was against the stimulus thing too. We shouldn’t be bailing out the banks and car companies. If a CEO can’t figure out how to make his company profitable, then he shouldn’t be the CEO." -LATimes interview, November 7, 2011
The problem here is that what the average American sees is not Clint Eastwood's nearly unbroken Republican voting record. (He did support Democrat Gray Davis for California Governor.) They don't hear him talking about his deep admiration for one-time Presidential candidate Herman Cain. They don't understand that the "only the strong survive" mantra that is so evident in many of the characters he plays on screen is also the mantra of the man at home. 

Instead, they see a man who praises the "growth" of a city that came not from hard work but from a tax-payer funded rescue mission. They see a man who stands up and on national television equates taking a government handout with pulling oneself up by the proverbial bootstraps, and a failure to take responsibility for one's own failures with the strength of the American spirit.

Even the educated viewer sometimes has difficulty separating the character from the actor. And as someone who has spent most of his adult life in the entertainment industry, Clint Eastwood SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT. 

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